Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain involving a Bell 412, VH-ESD, 72 km WNW Townsville, Qld on 23 May 2014

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 23 May 2014, at about 0855 Eastern Standard Time, a Bell 412 helicopter, registered VH-ESD, conducted a winching operation about 72 km WNW of Townsville, Queensland. The crew consisted of a pilot, an air crew officer (ACO), a rescue crew officer (RCO), a paramedic and a doctor.

The pilot established the helicopter in a hover about 100 ft above the ground facing down the slope. The ACO directed the pilot to manoeuvre the helicopter to perform the operation and remain clear of all obstacles. The doctor and RCO were winched down to the site together, and subsequently the paramedic was lowered. The pilot conducted an orbit before returning to winch the stretcher and rescue equipment down.

The pilot and ACO then departed and after about 15 minutes, returned to commence the winch recovery. The ACO directed the pilot to manoeuvre the helicopter and winched up the doctor and the stretcher. The ACO handed the visual reference over to the pilot, while his attention was focused on securing the stretcher inside the cabin.

About 1 minute later, the ACO returned to the door and observed that the helicopter had drifted back and left and he immediately directed the pilot to manoeuvre up and to the right, however the tail rotor collided with some foliage. The ACO advised the pilot. The pilot had not detected any strike, there were no abnormal indications or vibrations and the helicopter was operating normally.

The RCO and paramedic were then winched into the helicopter and the ACO returned to the front seat. After landing, the pilot observed some ripples on the tail rotor blades. 

This incident highlights to helicopter pilots the importance maintaining a good reference point when operating in confined areas.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 33

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General details
Date: 23 May 2014   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0920 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 72 km WNW Townsville    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 06 August 2014   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model 412  
Aircraft registration VH-ESD  
Serial number 36026  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Townsville, Qld  
Destination Townsville Hospital, Qld  
Last update 14 November 2018